There are those who say that on the new "Welcome to Washington" signs at the District boundaries, Mayor Marion Barry's name is larger than either the "Welcome" or the "Washington".

That is, strictly speaking, not true.

It is true that the "M" in the mayor's hastily scripted signature is nine inches tall while the "W" in Washington is only six. It is also true that the "Y" which ends the signature with such a flourish is 13 inches tall and, in fact, the largest graphic image on the 4-by-7 foot sign.

But it's almost impossible to read the mayor's signature anyway. The real factor to concentrate on is the actual printing.

The words "Welcome to Washington" are almost uniformly six inches tall. The "Marion Barry Jr." beneath the mayor's signature, while admittedly in capital letters, is only three inches tall. A modest height by any description.

There are those who would have you believe there are hundreds of such signs, which is, of course, irresponsible rumor. There are only 24--enough to cover every major route into the city. They cost $4,500 or $195.83 apiece, which, for all you know, may be a good price for a metal sign in red, white, black and blue with some stars and a kind of stripe.

Nitpickers and quibblers will point out that the city got along with fewer signs before, and never before felt it necessary to display on a billboard the name of its mayor for some traffic-dazed motorist from, maybe, Missouri.

But those old signs dated from the old days. In the beginning, the District didn't have a mayor, and during the administration of Mayor Walter Washington new signs weren't needed. When you have a mayor with the same name as the city, certain economies are possible that no longer apply.

The new signs began going up this summer as part of $703,000 allocated from the city budget for the Mayor's Committee to Promote Washington.

If there's ever been a mayor's committee in any city that didn't also promote the mayor, it has so far gone undiscovered.

In Baltimore, for example, every park bench and traffic light is brought to you courtesy of Mayor William Donald Schaefer. His name is on everything in that city. Even the beer.

This week Schaefer won Baltimore's Democratic Primary with 71.5 percent of the vote, and lessons like that aren't lost on Marion Barry. If it takes autographed city limit signs to make a first class city, Washington deserves the best.

Without them you might as well be in, say, Itta Bena, Miss.